Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Cost of Commuting (Or How Not to Drive Like an A**hole): Part II

So the last post really talked about the issues with commuting, the expense, the impact on the environment, and the toll it takes on time. Unfortunately, despite my goal of eventually BIKING TO WORK, these winter months that isn't realistic for me just yet. So how to improve the costs to the wallet and the environment in one swoop?? 

Step 1: Drive Slower.

It may sound counterintuitive, but while your vehicle may be able to go over 100 mph, it tends to peak around 55/60 mph for fuel efficiency. For some cars, it may be even lower! Higher speeds than that, your resistance (aka wind) also picks up, decreasing your gas mileage. Over at CarTalk (one of my personal favorites for learning about car maintenance) they put it this way: "Consider this: for every 10 miles per hour you floor it, you lose as much as 15% in fuel economy. What's that mean for your retirement account? For every 1,000 miles you drive, figuring gas at $2.50 a gallon and 25 MPG fuel efficiency, you'd save as much as $15 if you drove 10 mph slower." (

You may need to forgo the fast lane to save some green. For those of us with lead feet (guilty as charged!) an easy way to remember to do this is use that cruise control, even for shorter trips on the freeway, to keep that speed in check.

Step 2: Try not to Drive Like an A**hole.

All joking aside- we all know one of those drivers...we may even be one. They tend to admit with pride that they are the aggressive-behind-the-wheel type. These are the folks that are jumping between lanes, hitting that gas pedal hard to get in front of that semi, braking quickly and driving like they are rocking in the Indy 500 (news flash: you're not!). Acceleration is one of the biggest costs to your gas mileage- according to the US Department of Energy, it can lead to a 33% reduction in your gas mileage ( 

 That's an extra third of cash that you are forking over by aggressive acceleration/deceleration- not to mention the blood pressure spikes you are causing to all the drivers around you.

Step 3: Stop the Idling!
This one I am totally guilty of. I pull in front of a business and I'm 10 minutes early. Do I turn off the vehicle right away? Typically not, I generally let it idle. I may be listening to the radio, have the air on (or the heat) or just plain not paying attention. If I'm picking up a friend, I may leave the car idling, while I wait for them to come outside. In part, I think I started doing this thinking that I'd waste less gas mileage by leaving it running than needing to turn it off and re-start. Turns out- Not True! Per the Clean Cities 'Stop Idling' campaign, starting your cars uses about 10 secs of fuel where as your car just sitting there running can use up to a 1/2 gallon in less time than the time it takes to watch the latest episode of Scandal ( .

Step 4: Ditch the Excessive Baggage

Now I'm not referring to that ex you are still holding a torch for- while a different issue, that one probably won't ruin your fuel economy or add to your commuting costs! Avoid hauling excessive weight, leaving on roof racks, and other equipment on your car that will increase your
wind resistance (see Step 1).

In the words of Snoop D-O-double G, "Drop it Like it's Hott" for better fuel efficiency!

But what to do what the time waste of Commuting? How can you use that time most efficiently and to reduce the stress of that potential traffic jam?
1. Do Something that Engages Your Mind. Podcasts are always a favorite of mine. By downloading an episode of Freakonomics Radio, CarTalk or How Stuff Works to my smart phone before leaving the house, I can spend my commute learning interesting things about the world around me.

2. Make that Grocery List. Many smart phones have a 'voice memo' feature where you can record yourself hands-free. It's a great way to get your thoughts or ideas down without being unsafe behind the wheel. Who knows, maybe you will use that time to do an Audio Journal, and record how your day was before you even get home.

3. Build your Personal Connections Having never been much of a phone talker, I rarely do this behind the wheel, but with hands-free Bluetooth technology this can be a good way for others to spend their commute. It may be using your 30 minute drive to catch up with an old friend or to call your parents. For this one, I recommend doing only on your evening commute- as a good way to ruin your relationships would be to call someone on your 6:30am commute and wake them up.

4. Enjoy the Silence For many of us, from the moment we wake up to the end of the day, we are being bombarded with sound, music and conversation. While many of these are enjoyable, we take very little time to be quiet. There has been more research in recent years about the importance of silence and rising awareness of introverts and need for many to have solitude. So maybe during a stressful evening/morning commute instead of listening to the mindless morning show, take time to think of all the things that you are grateful for, the positives from your day or just to observe the city around you. You may find that your 20 minutes of unplugged, quiet time as one of the most relaxing parts of your day.

What are some ways that you have or want to increase your fuel efficiency? Have you upgraded to a more fuel efficient vehicle? What are some ways that you try and avoid the 'time-waste' trap of your commute?

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